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Singapore Airport Hub // Lost in Transit // Star Alliance, & Playing the Points Game
SINGAPORE AIRPORT OUGHT TO BE CONSIDERED A TOURIST ATTRACTION IN ITS OWN RIGHT FOR ITS SHEER OPULENCE AND BEAUTY AND THE RANGE OF THINGS YOU CAN DO THERE.
The place consistently wins awards for excellence and is described as one of the best airports in the world, as well as a busy Asian hub (the 5th busiest in Asia, and the 19th busiest in the world, in 2007).
While London Heathrow was going into meltdown following its recent expansion, Singapore Airport's new Terminal 3 opened without a hitch earlier this year -- or almost without a hitch.
The S$1.75 billion Terminal 3 opened on 9 January 2008, a little delayed due to the War on Terror and the subsequent stalling in traffic growth. Even before it opened, Terminal 3 had become a tourist attraction of sorts in the island republic. As Singapore Sights wrote: "Terminal 3 features a unique roof architecture which allows soft natural light into the building while keeping tropical heat out. The one-of-a-kind design has 919 skylights with specially designed reflector panels which automatically adjust themselves to allow an optimal amoutn of soft and uniform daylight into the terminal building. The overall effect is a soothing ambience at all times of the day.
"Another key highlight of Terminal 3 is a five-storey high vertical garden, called the Green Wall. Spanning 300 meters across the main building, it can be admired both from the departure and arrival halls. The Green Wall is covered with 25 species of climbing plants and is interspersed with four cascading waterfalls. In addition, a sculptured sandstone art wall display with multi-language weclome messages located below the Green Wall offers an artistic treat for arriving passengers waiting for their baggage..."
Meanwhile, Changi has been courting both premium and budget travellers with the opening of a commercially important persons terminal by JetQuay and a S$45 million Budget Terminal in 2006. To further diversify the picture, a new full-service nine-story Crowne Plaza Hotel is under construction, immediately adjacent to Terminal 3.
According to Changi Airport's own official website, which rates me as one of their friends, the airport boasts the following amenities:
1 -- Miles of duty-free shopping, the usual kind of stuff you would expect to find in an airport -- but also shopping of a seriously more upmarket calibre. Inside Retailing Magazine reported in January 2008: "Apple, FIFA, Vertu, Sony Style and Ferrari are brands usually associated with up-market shopping malls.
Now they're coming to an airport near you - well, near to those travelling internationally anyway..."
"Singapore Changi Airport's long-awaited third terminal, T3, will open on January 9 with more than 100 retailers and 40 food operators vying for the cash of not just travellers but locals as well.
"While 55 of the new retail tenancies and 20 food operators will be air-side - which means only travellers can access them - another 45 shops and 20 food vendors will be accessible to Singaporeans who aren't flying anywhere.
"'For Singaporeans, a trip to the airport is something the whole family likes to do, so we want to give them more reason to come out here,' an airport spokesperson told Inside Retailing Magazine on a tour of the new terminal, currently under systems testing..."
2 -- Rooftop swimming pool with accompanying bar (of course!).
3 -- Gardens and koi ponds featuring cactus, bamboo, ferns, sunflower, and heliconia -- truly beautiful believe me!
4 -- Sleeping chairs fitted with vibrator alerts to wake you up when your plane leaves (I'm planning to camp out there the next time I find myself stranded with no money, as happened in 2003!) I'll just plug in my ear-plugs and doze off!
6 -- A sports bar with a complicated payment system, which seems to involve the manager having to validate every purchase, and the signing of paperwork. This frequently results in the staff forgetting to give change to customers, and customers getting angry and storming off to find another bar (of which there are many, thankfully!)
7 -- A free movie cinema (that's right, a free cinema in an airport!) with a big screen and cinema-style seats and 24-hour rotation. The only thing missing is the popcorn. And the only catch is all the movies they play seem to be cheesy B-grade American movies, the sort that might appeal to teenagers (and Singaporeans, no doubt!)
8 -- Countless restaurants offering an international range -- sushi or Indian curries, for example. There is one particular Indian curry shop at Changi which I adore, which I visited in the initial phases of my first trip to Iceland. Says Laura: "There is a fantastic indian restraunt on the second floor in terminal 1, has the best Dosai (Indian pancake with a yummy potato filling) and its pretty cheap too."
Those dosais were a little too rich for me and combined with the cheese I couldn't even finish them. But thanks for the tip Laura! And although I haven't ever passed the night there yet, I am sure my time will come soon -- and that will be one of the great experiences of my life!
9 -- Traditional culture shows using live actors. On my last visit in August 2003 there was a Chinese magician-cum-martial artist juggling plates and catching knives and so on. At one point his assistant tried to ram a sharp spear through his throat. By some Shaolin magic of mind-over-matter, the martial artist was able to stop the spear from piercing his neck. The assistant pushed and pushed, the spear started to bend almost 180 degrees -- and the only wound the martial artist suffered was a little blood. This little blood was enough to freak out some Scandinavian children in the crowd, who had to run back to the shields of their mothers.
10 -- A downstairs foodcourt set up in the typical "hawker's market" style, featuring such delicious dishes as chicken laksa (you need tissues because it sure is spicy!).
11 -- A science museum and "Timezone Australia" arcade lounge...
12 -- Designated napping areas and specially designed snooze chairs free of charge. Or, for $AUS23 for three hours, you can sleep in your own chamber at the shower, fitness and lifestyle centre. A room with television and a private bathroom in the Ambassador Transit Hotel - which is within the airport - costs $AUS44, or a budget room with shared bathroom is $AUS30.
13 -- If pampering is on your itinerary, the Aromazone massage centre has aromatherapy, reflexology and massage treatments. A one-hour aromatherapeutic massage treatment costs $AUS58. A traditional foot reflexology session, helpful in relaxing nerves and tracing "qi" imbalances, is $30 per half-hour, as is a head-and-shoulder massage.
14 -- Changi's fitness centre or the gym in the Ambassador Transit Hotel have sessions for between $AUS8 and $AUS12 (including hire of sports attire and footwear). At the rooftop swimming pool and jacuzzi complex, a swim and shower costs $AUS10. You must bring your own swimwear but soap, shampoo, shower gel, moisturising lotion and towels are provided. If you're feeling a bit out of puff after your workout, head to the oxygen bar, where 10 minutes of pure oxygen costs $AUS12.
Anyway, you get the picture: it is one kick-ass airport, consistently voted the best in the world. You could spend the day in there, and still find things to do. Maybe start the day with a swim in the pool, a massage, check out the science museum, and then catch a cheesy movie in the cinema. By this time it is lunchtime so you could order some of of the huge cheese dosas and mango juice they serve in one of the Indian restaurants, or perhaps a round of sushi. Since it is now afternoon it is okay to start drinking, so I would hit the bars for a chance to meet fellow travellers waiting for their planes, or to watch a bit of TV (there are special viewing lounges set aside for CNN or BBC or the Discovery Channel, for example, as well as sports areas where you can watch boxing or the golf.) There are options all round, and plenty of beverages to be consumed.
Given that I have been to Singapore so many times, I want to create a website which celebrates the city and provides information for the curious outsider. The pages that follow, however, are dedicated to the city's Changi International Airport, which is so cool and offers so many fun things to do, that it deserves to be considered a tourist attraction in its own right. Let the adventure begin!
Go to Next Chapter: Lost in Transit (in Singapore's Changi Airport)!